Over the past two years, Hip-hop audiences in London may have noticed a troupe of young women clad in distinctive matching t-shirts bearing the legend “I Love Myself”. The t-shirts, and the women wearing them, are the work of 20-year-old Kloe Dean, a dancer a choreographer from Catford. Myself Dance Company was formed in May 2008 to enable young female dancers to train and perform in a variety hip-hop dance styles, and the group are currently taking part in the SpaceXchange scheme at The Bridge Leisure Centre in Lewisham.
Kloe first started dancing at the age of fifteen, and has performed with Hip-hop crews Unity and Boy Blue. More recently, she has been training with The Realness collective in Popping and Locking, Hip-hop styles which originated in the US in the 1970s. Myself is an all-female troupe of 20 dancers (six of whom will be performing at Sadler’s Wells on 9 March), whose routines use the styles of Popping, Locking and New Age Street.
“I thought it was important to establish a female troupe because I don’t think enough female dancers push themselves enough or get recognised,” explains Kloe. “There’s a lot of men in Hip-hop dance, so this was an initiative to get more young girls involved in a strong collective and do everything that guys that do!” Kloe feels that many female performers look for approval from outside – “they look for other people to tell them they are successful or good at what they do, when it should start from within.”
The idea of self-worth underpins both the group’s performances and their characteristic “I Love Myself” t-shirts, which the girls have worn to competitions and showcases including B.Supreme at London South Bank, Blueprint at Stratford Circus, and Breakin’ Convention 2009 at Sadler’s Wells.
“My favourite moment so far would have to be winning the Get It On The Floor competition at the Hackney Empire last year – that was one of our best performances,” says Kloe. “And performing at Breakin’ Convention last year too, that was cool!” What does she particularly enjoy about performing? “I love entertaining people and sharing my ideas and inspiration, and having a team, like a family on stage. It’s quite powerful when you have a group of people that love the same thing.”
Kloe was one of the dancers initially involved in the setting up of SpaceXchange with London Youth Dance. Their partnership manager is community dance artist Amy Swaddle-Scott, who set the group up with The Bridge Centre in Lower Sydenham. “Kloe has been great and very professional with her group,” smiles Amy, who has a background in GCSE and A-level dance teaching. “I think the best thing for her has been the use of rehearsal space!” It was Amy’s role to contact spaces in Lewisham and sell the project to them to create interest, and both Amy and Myself have been very happy with their time at The Bridge.
As their voluntary work for the project, the Myself dancers have been promoting the work of the centre in the local area with flyers and publicity drives. “We agreed the work with Amy and The Bridge Centre,” says Kloe, “and gave out a lot of flyers for The Bridge to promote it in local area.” What has she most enjoyed about the project? “The flexibility of being able to get the free space, and it’s like a good deed for the people that run the space and it’s a good initiative for young people to get involved in volunteering and do things in return for what has been given to them.”
Kloe is influenced by a number of Hip-hop dancers from the old school – Mr Wiggles (of New York breakdance innovators The Rock Steady Crew), Popping specialist Kenrick Sandy, Turbo and Fred Fox. “They’re real about things and they love what they do, they don’t just do it because it’s fashion, and they’re the best at what they trained in,” says Kloe. Hip-hop is often thought of as a dance form based on spectacle and showmanship, but Kloe wants to show people, through her performances and teaching work, that Hip-hop has a history and meaning as well.
The girls are looking forward to presenting Myself’s new piece at the Sadler’s Wells SpaceXchange showcase, and showing that Hip-hop dance can be about energy and personality as well as display. “A lot of the time people do tricks and set pieces,” says Kloe, “but our set is a lot about groove, just jamming and dancing and having fun!”
Originally posted at www.londondance.com